Friday, September 17, 2010

The Origins of Chess: Chaturaji - "Four Kings"

Chess Variants contains concise information on how the game and several variants were played.  There was a version that was played without dice and two different versions that played with dice:

Basic chaturaji set-up
In the end of the 19th century, researchers thought that this game was the original predecessor of chess, and that it was three thousand years old. In the beginning of this century, the now common assumption was taken (e.g. by Murray in his History of Chess) that this game is a variant of Chaturanga for two players.

The Oxford Companion to Chess by David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld (New Edition, Oxford University Press 1992) does not contain a description of the game of Chaturaji.  It does, however, have a short but interesting entry on "dice:"

dice, used long before ches for gambling purposes, and perhaps even earlir for divination.  it has been conjectured, without supporting evidence, that a forerunner of chess may have involved the use of four-sided dice to determine which piece was to be moved [sounds like Chaturaji].  There ar equal grounds for the suggestion that the first form of proto-chess was an oracular ceremony involving dice and that these were discarded in order to create a game of skill.

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